Fridges: A Shopping Guide

Shopping for a refrigerator can be quite daunting, with so many models online and different models to see at stores. These five tips will make it easy.

1. Buy a unit from 2014 or later. All models manufactured since 2014 have to meet new, national standards that keep energy use low, only $5 – $7 of electricity per month. Get great savings by focusing on the 2015 models.

2. EnergyGuide not ENERGY STAR. Typically, ENERGY STAR products use 10 – 25% less energy than standard models. But with the new national standard, that’s no longer true for refrigerators. Our review of over 40 fridges shows only very small additional savings from ENERGY STAR models.

Keep it simple: just verify low energy use by reading the yellow tag that every refrigerator must have, the EnergyGuide.

3. Plan ahead, wait for the sale. Save $50 to $200 by buying your new refrigerator on sale. The major retailers have steep discounts on key holidays, including Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Black Friday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and 4th of July.

4. Check the useful capacity, not the stated capacity. Refrigerator manufacturers report size by the cubic feet, such as 20.3 cu ft or 18.0 cu ft. Consumer Reports measured the insides and found that the interior, or “useful capacity”, is often only 70% of the stated capacity. Poke your head inside before you buy.

5. Price varies with color. Our research shows that for the same model, white typically costs $100 to $150 less than stainless steel. Black is sometimes also priced higher, sometimes not.

Start your shopping journey by carefully measuring the space in your kitchen for the fridge. Allow one inch of air around the edges for good cooling airflow. This is an important step, as one retailer reports that “wrong size” is their number one reason for returns.


WattzOn Labs is always innovating ways to engage people to save water and energy. It showcases the WattzOn products under the WattzOn Labs private-label. We don’t market these products, but use this small-scale direct-to-consumer experience to constantly evolve and learn. Then we apply the findings to the rich, private-label products used by all our customers at WattzOn.